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Juggling several debts can be stressful. If you’re struggling to keep on top of your debts or you simply want to save money on interest, we can help you solve the problem and get some peace of mind. Here are 3 ways your mortgage and finance broker can help you deal with your debts so you remain in control.

1) We can help you consolidate your debt

With debt consolidation, the idea is you take out a new low-interest loan and use it to pay off all your high-interest debts. We usually recommend one of two debt consolidation options.

Option 1: Refinance your home loan

In this scenario, you would refinance your mortgage and access some of your equity to pay off your debts.

Pros

  • Home loan interest rates are lower than those for most other types of credit.
  • One convenient repayment that’s easier to manage.
  • You can spread your repayments out over time to make them more affordable.
  • You may be able to make extra repayments and pay off your debt quicker, thereby saving money on interest.

Cons

  • Home loan terms can be 25 or 30 years. If you’re not careful, you may end up paying much more interest on your debts, even though the home loan interest rate is lower. Ask us to crunch the numbers for you.
  • If you use the equity in your home to pay off your debts, you will have less money when you sell your home.
  • If you turn all your unsecured debts (like credit cards) into secured debt (like your home loan), in a worst case scenario, you could lose your home if you get into debt again and can’t meet the repayments.

Option 2: Take out a personal loan

You could consolidate by taking out a personal loan with a competitive interest rate and using it to pay off all your other debts.

Pros

  • Interest rates for personal loans are generally lower than those on credit cards.
  • One convenient repayment.
  • Spread the repayments out over time to make them more manageable.
  • At the end of the loan term, all your debt will be paid off.

Cons

  • Personal loans come with higher interest rates than home loans (you may be better off by refinancing your home loan – ask us to crunch the numbers for you).
  • If you are struggling financially, it may be more difficult to secure a competitive interest rate.

2) We can compare interest rates on any kind of loan

We can help you find competitive interest rates on other kinds of loans, besides your home loan. Want us to compare interest rates on your personal loan? Not a problem. How about your car loan? We can access a wide variety of lenders to help with that too.

To help you manage your debts, we may be able to refinance your existing loans to a more competitive interest rate, or a longer loan term that reduces the size of your repayments. Bottom line is you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by checking in with us.

3) We can help you create a budget and savings plan 

Having a solid understanding of your income and expenses will help you remain in control of your finances. We can help you set up a budget to pay off your debts and create a savings plan to reach your goals. We’ll also give you tips, like how eliminating credit cards could save you money, or how budgeting apps work.

The last thing you want is for your debt to spiral out of control. As your mortgage and finance broker, we can explain whether debt consolidation is financially worthwhile, compare the market to find you the most competitive interest rates and help you find ways to budget and save. Please get in touch with us at Element Finance today.

This month, we saw important changes come into effect that could impact your ability to take out a home loan – or make it easier, depending on your credit history. In this article, we explain the new credit reporting changes and how they may affect you.

But first, let’s start with the basics – what is a credit report and why is it important? Remember, if you have any questions, your mortgage and finance broker is a great source of information.

What is a credit report?

Credit providers like banks, utility companies and telecommunications carriers provide details about your credit habits to credit reporting bodies. These agencies use this information to compile your credit report.

Among other details, your credit report contains your credit rating. This is a numerical value between zero and 1200 that represents your creditworthiness and how reliable you are as a borrower. The higher the score, the better.

What is your credit report used for?

When you apply for a home loan or another type of loan like a car loan, the lender will use your credit report to help them decide whether to approve the loan. They’ll consider details like your repayment history when assessing your ability to repay. Only licensed credit providers can access the repayment history information contained in your credit report.

Recent changes

From July 1, Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR) became mandatory for the big four banks. In the past, banks may have only shared negative financial information about you with other lenders, but under the new CCR regime, they’ll have to pass on positive information about you as well. Technically CCR has been in place since 2014, but the Australian Government recently made it compulsory for the big four banks to participate in the program to use credit reporting information to assess lending risks.

Here are some examples of the type of information that may now be shared:

Negative financial information:

  • Payment defaults
  • Overdue payments
  • Declined credit applications
  • Bankruptcy situations

How will the changes affect you?

The new credit reporting system will give lenders a more complete picture of your credit position. What that means is that they’ll have access to a more comprehensive set of data when assessing loan applications, so it will be easier for them to assess if you can afford to take on more debt.

If you have a positive financial track record, it’s likely your credit score will improve following the changes. Consequently, it may be easier for you to be approved for a home loan. You may even be able to negotiate a better deal (or have us do it for you).

How to keep your credit report healthy

Here are some tips to keep your credit report in check:

  • Pay your bills and make loan repayments on time
  • Pay your credit card off in full each month
  • Lower your credit card limits
  • Consider consolidating debt (speak to us about this)
  • Limit your credit enquiries, as frequent applications can look bad on your credit report
  • Remove your name from utility bills if you move
  • Be cautious about identity theft.

How to access your credit report

You can access a copy of your credit report for free once a year from credit reporting bodies. The main ones are Equifax, Dun and Bradstreet, Experian and Tasmanian Collection Service. Simply visit the ASIC MoneySmart website to find out more here.

Like to know more?

Your mortgage broker will be happy to explain how the changes to credit reporting may affect your eligibility for a home loan. Remember, for a lot of borrowers, mandatory CCR is likely to be a good thing, as it may improve your chances of being approved for a loan. It’s also expected to increase competition between lenders in future, which is a win for borrowers. Whatever your finance needs, we at Element Finance can assist, so please get in touch today.

Last year, important changes to tax deductions for property investors were announced. For some investors, the changes may have a significant impact on the annual deductions you can claim on your rental properties. As your mortgage broker, we like to keep you up to date. Here’s what you need to know about the changes when doing your tax this year.

Travel expense deduction scrapped

As of July 1, 2017, property investors can no longer claim a tax deduction for travel to maintain, inspect or collect rent for their rental property. Likewise, you can no longer claim travel expenses for preparing the property for new tenants, or for visiting a real estate agent to discuss your property.

Investors who own property interstate will probably be the most affected by this change. If these changes do affect you, perhaps consider employing a property manager to perform some of these tasks for you, as their costs are usually still tax deductible. Talk to your accountant to find out more.

Depreciation deductions tightened

Depreciation is the decline in value of an asset with a limited life expectancy. Depreciating assets include carpets, furniture and appliances like water heaters and cookers (also known as plant and equipment).

Residential property investors can now only claim depreciation deductions for plant and equipment expenses if they purchased them. Previously, investors could claim plant and equipment depreciation on assets that were installed by a previous owner.

This “integrity measure”, introduced in last year’s Budget, was intended to prevent multiple property owners from depreciating the same assets, exceeding their actual value. The changes apply to second-hand plant and equipment acquired after last year’s Budget night (May 9, 2017). You also can’t claim a deduction for plant and equipment installed on or after July 1, 2017 if you have ever used it for private purposes.

If you owned or entered into a contract to buy your investment property before May 9, 2017, you will not be affected by these changes. You can still claim deductions for depreciating plant and equipment assets that were in the rental property before that date.

Further reading

You can find more information about the expenses you can claim for residential rental properties on the ATO website, available here. You’ll find details about expenses that are deductible immediately, such as management, maintenance and interest; and expenses that are deductible over several years, such as capital works and borrowing costs.

Your tax time checklist

Here are some tips to prepare for tax time:

  • Update your Depreciation Schedule. You can find a Guide to depreciating assets 2018 here. If you’re confused, seek advice from your accountant. If it’s a new property investment, you may need to have a quantity surveyor prepare a Depreciation Schedule report.
  • Understand what you can claim (refer to the ATO website for clarification).
  • Get your documents together and organise your receipts.
  • Tally up your deductions. It’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet with all your income and expenses listed. That way, you can save on accounting fees (rather than giving them a shoe box of receipts to go through).
  • Book in with your accountant (they are flat out at tax time, so the sooner the better).

As your mortgage and finance broker, we’re happy to work with your accountant or financial planner on your investment property finance. And if you need a recommendation for a good accountant, we can help with that too. Good luck with your tax, and if we can assist in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Element Finance!

Last month, we continued to see considerable property market activity, despite the arrival of the cold weather. Auction clearance rates continue to fall, indicating that conditions are currently favouring buyers. Interest rates remain low and there are plenty of opportunities out there for savvy property buyers and investors. If you’re looking to buy or refinance your existing home loan, call us now.

Interest Rate News

At its July meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) decided to leave the cash rate on hold at 1.5%, where it has remained since August 2016. Most economists now believe the RBA will leave the cash rate on hold until next year, and some are even predicting it will be 2020 before we see a change.

Meanwhile, lenders have been making changes to interest rates outside of the RBA’s decision. Several lenders raised interest rates marginally last month, citing funding costs as the driver.

If you haven’t had a home loan health check in a while, it’s important not to be complacent. Check in with us and we’ll compare the market to determine whether your mortgage still stacks up.

Property Market News

Dwelling values fell by -0.29% across the combined five capitals in the month to June 30. In Melbourne, prices fell -0.41%, while Sydney saw prices decline by -0.33%. Perth experienced a decline of -0.53% and Canberra -0.30%. Darwin experienced the largest monthly fall, with home values decreasing -1.12%. Hobart, Brisbane, and Adelaide all experienced very marginal increases.

Auction volumes have declined in recent weeks, although they are still quite strong for this time of year. In the week ending June 30, Victoria had 873 scheduled auctions and cleared 61% of stock. In New South Wales, there were 726 scheduled auctions, and 56% of properties sold under the hammer. Queensland had the third highest volume – 226 scheduled auctions, but only 32% of properties sold.

In South Australia, the clearance rate was 58% for 75 scheduled auctions. The ACT held 43 auctions, and achieved a clearance rate of 66%, while things were quieter in Western Australia – 38 scheduled auctions and a 22% clearance rate. The Northern Territory had only one auction and the property sold, while neither of the two properties to go to auction in Tasmania were sold.

Winter is a great time to purchase property, as there could be fewer buyers to compete with. What’s more, because the winter months are generally slower in the housing market, vendors may be more willing to negotiate on price. Remember, we offer finance solutions tailored to your specific financial situation and goals, so please speak to us at Element Finance about your finance needs, and if you’re in the market to buy a property, talk to us about pre-approval on your loan today.

Loan refinancing is a strategy used by property investors to access funds – usually to grow or improve the value of their property portfolio. The right time to do it largely depends on your strategy, plans and equity. In this article, we highlight some of the key considerations for this strategy and how savvy investors often use the funds. If you’re considering investing in property or taking the next step in your investment journey, remember your mortgage broker is a great source of information and support, so please don’t hesitate to give Element Finance a call.

Why refinance?

Refinancing your loan allows you to access the equity in your property. Equity is the proportion of the property you own – for example, if the property is worth $500,000 and you owe $200,000 to the bank, then you have $300,000 in equity.

Savvy property investors use their equity for a variety of different purposes:

  • To renovate and add value to an investment property
  • As a deposit for their next investment property
  • To fund their lifestyle and living expenses.

Another popular reason to refinance is to secure a more competitive interest rate or a loan that better suits your needs. There may be loan features that can improve your interest savings or cash-flow, like offset accounts and redraw facilities. It pays to talk with your mortgage broker and reassess your property investment loans regularly, to ensure you’ve got the right loan to maximise your financial benefits and tax advantages.

Key considerations

1) Market value and equity
Generally, the right time to refinance your investment property is when the equity has grown sufficiently to take the next step in your investment strategy, or to fund your renovation plans. To get an idea of the value of your property, and how much your equity has grown, you’ll need to compare public sales data for similar properties in the area. Ask Element Finance for a free suburb and property profile report with the latest on-the-market information.

You could also ask real estate agents for an estimate (make sure you hit up at least three different agents) or pay for a professional property valuation. Keep in mind that a lender’s valuation will be on the conservative side of any estimates, and a formal valuation will be required by the lender before they will allow you to refinance.

2) Consider the costs
Switching lenders and refinancing your investment loan can help you achieve your goals, but there are costs involved. These may include break fees or discharge fees, establishment fees for your new investment loan, and valuation fees. Speak to Element Finance and we’ll run you through the costs and help you decide whether refinancing is worthwhile right now, or if it may be better to wait until your equity has grown further.

3) Investigate how the market is performing
Part of the decision about whether to refinance will depend on how the property market is performing for your investments. National dwelling values have been falling in many capital cities in recent months, while regional dwelling values have been edging higher. That may mean the location of your investment property will be a key consideration when deciding to refinance.

It’s important to be aware that if do you refinance after your property’s value has decreased, you may be facing negative equity territory. This is when the value of your investment falls below the outstanding balance on the mortgage. In this situation, it may be better to wait until the market recovers before you refinance.

4) Other considerations
The investment lending landscape has seen many changes in recent times. In April, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced the 10 per cent limit on bank lending to property investors (in place since 2014) would be removed for lenders that could demonstrate prudent lending. As a result, we’re seeing interest-only investment loans becoming easier to obtain, and interest rates being reduced by some lenders. That means now may be a good time to reassess your investment strategies and refinance requirements.

Talk with your mortgage broker first
If you’d like to access equity to grow your investment portfolio or renovate, or you just want to know you’re getting the best deal, it’s worth having a chat with your mortgage broker. You’ll find we are a wealth of information – and it’s always best to make a fully informed decision. If the time is right for you to take the next step in your investment journey, we’ll help you find the right refinance option to help you achieve your goals. Call Element Finance today!


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